Thank you for refusing to accept the death of art

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Thank you for refusing to accept the death of art


Published before 2005

Dear Mr Ross,

I recently wrote a review for Amazon about an instructional DVD produced by Alexei Antonov and I felt it woud be incomplete if I didn't mention other artists and websites striving to provide instruction in fine art appreciation and techniques, particularly with respect to classical drawing and painting. Among such websites, yours is the one that I consider the most visionary, inspiring, organized, resourceful and beneficial. I am a Professor of Medicine. However, my true aspiration was to be an artist. I tried to balance medicine and art for years, but found myself torn between two vocations. I finally found the courage and the means to follow the voice of my heart in 2009. I am now working towards a BFA degree at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Isik University in Istanbul, Turkey, as a recipient of an extraordinary achievement scholarship. I will graduate in 2013.

Please find below the text of the review I wrote for Amazon, which I hope will humbly contribute to making your site better known by lovers of art and its long forgotten and abused heroine, beauty. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to you and to all of your collaborators at Art Renewal Center, for being brave enough to take a stand against the status quo of contemporary "artworks", which had become so abstracted, deconstructioned, degenerated and finally, decayed and dehumanized that they had become anything but art and had in fact been declared "dead". Thank you for not only lamenting the loss of beauty, dignity, intelligence, harmony, sensivitiy and sensibililty in art, but also for actively promoting a return to the ideals and techniques of the Old Masters. Thank you for remembering and honoring the tragically wronged masters of the past, especially William Bouguereau. (I spent months on a reproduction of "le Gouter", only to realize that it wasn't just a breathtakingly superb painting, but rather a most elegantly understated and poetic expression of the fragility and evanescence of youth). Thank you for caring enough about the past and the future of art and humanity to set up a site where seekers of beauty and knowledge can find hope, solace, knowledge, inspiration and support. Thank you for refusing to accept the death of art and for fighting for her revival.

With my sincere best wishes and regards,

Cigdem Gokce, MD, MRCP(UK), Professor of Medicine; Florence Nightingale Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey
BFA Student of The Faculty of Fine Arts, Isik University, Istanbul, Turkey


By Ozcan Gokce
Amazon Verified Purchase

(This review was written by Cigdem Gokce, physician and artist). This DVD is a very detailed explanation of a layered oil painting technique. The artist, Mr Alexei Antonov, greets his spectators in his atelier and starts by saying "this is not just a workshop, this my first action for the ecology of art". This rather quaint and sentimental expression is, in my opinion, not at all unjustified, since he has produced what should be called a video lesson in classical, realistic painting, which had, until quite recently been suffering from long term neglect and even abuse by proponents of modern and postmodern art. When the extent of so called modern and contemporary art reached its "climax" with "productions" like canned artist's excrement (Piero Manzoni) and formaldehyde-fixed, copulating bovine corpses (Damien Hirst), there seemed to be no further point in art, or even a place for art, in the Western World. This led to pompous exclamations like "art is dead". What had really happened was, a serious and almost complete break in the tradition of fine art appreciaton and training that had its roots in the antique civilisations of Egypt, Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia and had continued, with gradual development of the theory and practice of esthetics in art, almost until the 20th century. The eventually brutal and almost complete severing of the link with the past occurred gradually at first, starting with the Impressionists, although most would certainly have loathed to know how they unintentionally contributed to the present state of "artworks". However, starting with Manet's "Dejeuner sur l'Herbe", beauty ceased to be the main goal of art, and perhaps art did not die, but it certainly lost its search for, and potential to create, beauty. With that loss came widespread dislike and even ridicule of "art" in Western societies, with the "artist" being seen by many as a "producer" of discomforting and alienating products, which could reach astronomic market value but had no emotional or intellectual impact on its "spectators" other than perhaps a humourous appreciation of the "entrepeneurship" of their "producers". Fortunately and perhaps because modern and postmodern art has reached the point where it can not "shock" any more, having reached the limits of absurdity (giant plastic toys) and/or depravity (animals being filmed while being abused or otherwise tortured), a need to return to classical art, specifically, to the ideals and techniques of the visual arts that had been preserved until the end of the 19th century, gradually began to be felt. AND that was when the real "shock" came; the ideals could be envisioned, as they actually were deeply embedded and universal characteristics that were among the most important qualities of our species, making us "human", as opposed to mindlessly copulating, abusive and ugly "creatures", and not worthy of comparison to any other known species as such. Yes, the ideals were still remembered or easily evoked by even a cursory view of an Old Master work, like Leonardo da Vinci's "Madonna of the Rocks" BUT THE TECHNIQUES OF CLASSICAL ART HAD BEEN LOST! Indeed, any student of art interested in learning the techniques of the Old Masters eventually discovers that there is very limited information on the subject, and most of it is in the form of educated guesses at best. Those with the ability to paint in the manner and with the expertise of the Old Masters are very few, and of those, the ones willing to share their knowledge are even more infrequent. Against this background, I believe that Alexei Antonov's educational DVDs are among the first to address the need for adequate explanation of classical oil painting techniques. In this first lesson, "Country Pitcher", he starts with explaining preparation of the canvas (he uses a mixture containing gesso and modelling paste to achieve a smooth, hard surface); he then draws his still life composition (which contains fruits as well as a pitcher and a lace edged tablecloth); he draws over his first sketch with ink to fix it; this is followed by a light greenish-yellowish, transparent glaze of color (the imprimatura layer), a tonal underpainting in one or 2 stages in burnt umber (the umber underlayers); further tonal layers in shades of gray (the "dead" underlayers), and finally the color and texture layers. He gives adequate explanation on all of the materials he uses, including his paint colors and mediums and we are given the chance of observing him close up as he paints. His process requires extreme patience, since each layer must be left to dry for 1 to 4 weeks before he continues with the next one. However, his technique enables the completion of an very finely rendered, beautiful, realistic painting. We can not, given the lack of concrete evidence of how the Old Masters actually painted their masterpieces, be sure that Mr Antonov's method is actually the same or even similar to their techniques. However, his results are very impressive, and certainly comparable to Old Master paintings in their appearance. Mr Antonov's first language is not English, so most of the explanations are voiced by another speaker; but there is no doubt as to his sincerity, dedication and efficiency as an artist and teacher. I believe his DVDs deserve to be in the libraries of all fine art schools and serious students of classical art. I regret that Amazon currently doesn't sell his DVDS, as he has produced 4 more DVDs on the subject. I hope Amazon will resume its representation of Alexei Antonov. Other artists whose efforts in this area are also worthy of mention and who have cared enough for the future of art to produce similarly excellent teaching DVDs about classical painting are, Robert Liberace, Jon Kassan, Scott Waddell, Daniel Greene and the lovely, late Johnnie Liliedahl. The internet site founded by Fred Ross, Art Renewal Center, has become one of the strongest knights defending the past and future of the tradition of fine arts and is a wonderful source of high resolution images of Old and New Master works that can be used for study as well as inspiration. Another helpful website is the Web Art Academy, which provides online classical art education. All of the artists and web sites mentioned do ask for a fee but I believe that their fees are very reasonable, compared to the service they provide not only to artists, but hopefully to all humanity through their contributions to the emergence of a second High Renaissance era in art.